Rest in Peace, Scott Coles

by francine Hardaway on June 3, 2008

My friend Scott Coles apparently committed suicide yesterday, apparently seeing no way out of the disastrous Arizona mortgage market, in which he was the largest private lender. He had purchased the business from his father, and made private loans funded by individual investors. Many of the investors were friends of his, or friends of his father, or –as one of my friends who also invested with him– said “every Jew in Phoenix.”

Scott proudly proclaimed that in the entire history of the business, he had never lost a penny for investors. I’m guessing that was about to change. I’m also guessing that the two developers who sued him for not fully funding their loans (who could raise money for mortgages in this environment?) affected him personally, too, because he was himself fully invested financially and emotionally in the business. He always thought he could find a solution if he just worked hard enough, but the current credit crisis and mortgage meltdown defeated even his brilliance and hard work.

So as the investors begged to have their capital released, and the builders begged to have their loans funded, Scott didn’t see a way out, I’m guessing.

So he left a beautiful wife and three children, and sought peace by killing himself.

It’s not my job to judge him, just to mourn him. Yet when something like this happens, I always look for what we can learn from it.

Fortuitously, today I am at “Under the Radar,” a technology conference, and the lesson manifested.

There was a way out — a way I see every day here in Silicon Valley.

The way out is to accept failure and go on. Here in Silicon Valley, this happens every day. No one is happy about it, of course, but when a “black swan” comes along (one of those events no one can predict), you disconnect your ego from the outside event, pick yourself up, and move on. Everyone had to accept that after 9/11, when the Web 1.0 bubble burst, and they will have to do it again when the Web 2.0 bubble bursts. Here in the Bay Area, they’re used to it. In their lives, they have a portfolio of ventures, and some succeed while others fail.

The difference between here and the Phoenix real estate culture is that Silicon Valley is a culture that accepts failure as the price we pay for innovation, rather than pilng on the person with problems. In the tech world, when someone fails he is presumed to have learned, and investors are more, not less, willing to fund him/her next time.

Scott, sleep well. You have earned it, and you need the rest. I know how hard you tried.

Update: I’m turnng off comments for this post because of the uncivil tone. I’m grieving and I can’t deal with it.2463170820_ef885742e1


Aruni June 3, 2008 at 11:30 am

So sorry to hear about your friend. It is really tough to fail and it’s sad to think that he felt there was no way out. We often get so caught up in what people think of us and don’t realize that much is out of our control.

I hope and pray that his wife and kids will work through this and that they don’t have to take on any of his financial and emotional burdens that he left behind.

GeekMommy June 3, 2008 at 11:32 am

I was wondering, when I read his obit this morning through your twitter link if it might be a case like this. He was awfully young and in a field that is incredibly hard-hit just now.

I think one of the best things that ever happened to me growing up was the number of times I had to go through abject failures and horrible losses as a younger person – they taught me that there is NOTHING short of death that can ever really stop me.
But I know so many other people who didn’t hit their crises and failures until so late in their lives that they saw no way out other than that solution. Including my closest and dearest cousin.

May he rest in peace knowing that we all make mistakes and we all fail and that his memory will live on in the hearts of those who loved him not as “that guy who couldn’t find the solution at the end there” but as the sum total of the REST of his life – which was obviously one of love, caring, and giving.

Very nice tribute to your friend.
My sympathies go to his family and friends.

Todd Van Hoosear June 3, 2008 at 11:44 am

Francine, so sorry to hear the news. My thoughts are with you, his friends and family. Though I didn’t know him, I can only imagine the disappointment, stress and pressure he must have felt.

Pride can get the better of even the best people. Pride is a bigger killer than many of the worst diseases. We learn, grow and yes, survive, by learning from, and living through, even our worst mistakes.

Scott had a family, friends and colleagues who he must have felt he couldn’t face anymore. He didn’t know what I hope others do–that humans have an incredible reserve of compassion and are capable of forgiving even the worst of transgressions.

Yes, we’re also capable of great anger and hatred, and many people he may have hurt may not have forgiven him–but I don’t think any of them would wish him to end his life.

If you know somebody who’s hurting, connect with them, listen to them, and show compassion to them. If you can’t, try to help them find someone who can.

If you’re in pain yourself, don’t try to bear all the weight by yourself. You were given friends and family to help you. Share your heart with others. Some won’t be able to bear the weight, but many can, and would do so willingly.

Don’t let pride kill you. There are always second chances in life, but death offers no such opportunity.

Francine hardaway June 3, 2008 at 11:49 am

Thanks everyone. All of you are from the social media culture, which definitely understands this.So sad the worlds don’t collide more often.

Leslie Poston June 3, 2008 at 12:00 pm

I saw this today, but did not realize he was connected to someone who was connected, tangentially, to me. I hope his family will be able to weather his loss.


Oza Meilleur June 3, 2008 at 12:04 pm

Bonjour Francine,

Still thinking of you…and Scott’s family. Sending lots of love your way.

Go for the Light, Scott :-)

Big hugs always,
Mudd a.k.a. Oza

Nick O'Neill June 3, 2008 at 12:08 pm

I am so sorry to hear this. My thoughts are with you and everyone he touched.

Tim Siedell June 3, 2008 at 12:21 pm

Heartbreaking. Just heartbreaking. My heart goes out to the family.

Elisa Camahort Page June 3, 2008 at 3:13 pm

Horrible, horrible. I’m so sorry.

Francine hardaway June 3, 2008 at 3:28 pm

Such wonderful comments and support from my social media friends. Thank you so much. I’m just really wigged out by this, and I’m not alone. A couple of other friends of mine feel the same.

Connie Reece June 3, 2008 at 3:48 pm

Francine, I’m so sorry for you loss and so sorry that Scott did not see any way out. I agree with what Todd said about the capacity to understand; surely not even people who lost money would wish this on him or his family. Your comparison of the different cultures between Silicon Valley, where startups fail all the time, and Phoenix was enlightening. Peace and comfort to you and all those who loved and will miss Scott.

vcstello June 3, 2008 at 6:39 pm

I worked as a temp receptionist for him a few years back. Granted it only lasted a few months…he was a very nice guy. It is a grave loss for his family, friends and for our community. Hopefully he is at peace now and his family is taken care of. My thoughts and prayers go out to everyone who know him.

karen spector June 3, 2008 at 9:54 pm

I had known Scott Coles from his birth in Illinois to Lois and Chuck. I even baby sat for him and his siblings before they moved to Arizona. I ran into him a few years ago and saw what a wonderful man he had become. It was at his son’s bar mitzvah at the Arizona Botanical Center. I will remember his smile and how proud he was of his wonderful family. He is and will always be a shining successful star.

thomas June 4, 2008 at 4:49 pm

i am curious how you come to know he killed himself,although people of 48 years rarely die it does happen!

This is a disservice to a good man who is not here to defend himself. wait for results of autopsy before you make such statements.

Francine hardaway June 4, 2008 at 4:55 pm

I have been informed by credible sources and also a press release by bank examiners appeared with this information in it.

thomas June 4, 2008 at 5:30 pm

francine where can the press release be found online

thomas June 4, 2008 at 6:07 pm

Coles was found deceased in his residence, said Andy Hill, Phoenix police spokesman.

The cause and manner of death will be determined by the medical examiner, Hill said. There are no obvious signs of foul play, Hill said

cant find that press release from bank examiners?
I thought not

accolyte June 4, 2008 at 7:12 pm

Hi Francine as thomas requested we are all curious to see a link for the press release you had eluded to, it would be nice if you can substantiate your statements before you put them in the blogoshphere. We are all waiting for your response and to the link (if there is one)

Francine hardaway June 4, 2008 at 9:07 pm

Here is the link to the information I used, for those of you who have requeted it. I meant to honor Scott, not offend.

accolyte June 4, 2008 at 11:37 pm

Francine, what a way to honour “friend”, Scott Coles: your commentary is pretty close to assasinating his charecter with a lots of speculations and guessing on your part.

Francine hardaway June 5, 2008 at 6:13 am

I certainly wasn’t meaning to assassinate his character. I loved him, and had several conversations with him lately about how he was feeling and offered to help him many times. I felt a great deal of empathy with him, because I went through the real estate decline in the 80s with another Arizona real estate icon who nearly did the same thing. It’s the most sensitive and caring people who sometimes feel too much pain from these real estate downturns.

Scott was a man who wanted to find solutions, and who took his personal responsibility for investors very seriously. If that’s not what came across in my piece, I’m sorry.

I also know of other personal problems, but choose not to write about them.

Not at all a character assassination. Please read it as a way for one grieving person, who happens to write, to express her love.

Joseph Lee June 5, 2008 at 1:44 pm

He thought you were a “Nebbish” and your diatribe confirms his opinion. How Dare You who has accomplished nothing but words denigrate someone that has accomplished so much and given so much to so many?
No one is interested in your idiotic guesses, and it is too bad he is not here to refute that he would ever discuss anything with you.

I'm not saying - too many haters June 5, 2008 at 5:06 pm

Wow. Francine, I don’t know anybody involved, but it was clear that your post was a tenderhearted expression.
The article you linked to says “Coles died after an apparent suicide, …” Gee… Where could you possibly have gotten the idea that he committed suicide?
And now these quite hostile people are calling you names on behalf of your friend, who isn’t here to clear things up? I’ve never seen anything like that.
My sympathies on your loss.

GeekMommy June 5, 2008 at 6:06 pm

So, let me get this straight – Francine is grieving for the loss of her friend, and trying to understand the reasons for his untimely loss – and some folks who aren’t even brave enough to put real contact information come here and attack her for that?

Yeah, way to make the loss of an obviously good guy even worse for someone.

Before you come and post something rude? Think twice. You aren’t honoring the memory of Mr. Coles – may he rest in peace.

Trula June 5, 2008 at 6:14 pm

Francine. I understand that you meant well and loved your friend. I do think however it is too soon, much too soon, for anyone to publicly speculate on the reasons for why your friend chose to end his life (if indeed he did this, which hasn’t been confirmed). He has not even been buried yet…when someone’s body has not been interred/cremated/memorialized over yet it does seem kind of ghoulish to talk about them in this way, to imply what they could have or should have done.

I would also like to gently suggest that you consider this man’s children…one day they will be older and would like to read good things about their dad, written by people who knew their dad. You can choose to write about the good things you valued in your friend, without all the other stuff. His wife, his kids, they know more than anyone that he could have chosen to do different (if indeed he did end his own life), they really are not served by this post which is condemning.

I have known two people who died by apparent suicide, one a young acquaintance and the other a close friend. In both cases suicide was later ruled out by autopsy. In both cases right away people posted all over the internet suicide as cause of death. I understand that you put ‘apparently’ but that is just like calling someone an ‘alleged’ rapist. This is not some newspaper story about someone you don’t know. It’s a personal blog post about someone you say was a close friend. Be kind, to your friend. Respect his memory and his family.

and many hugs to you, for your grief.

/pd June 5, 2008 at 6:46 pm

Folks take a chill pill !! Whether the verbiage is “alleged”, “apparent ” or “idiotic guesses” – does that really matter ?

A Person has died, they leave behind loved ones. Empathize rather then criticize.

The Mortgage Crisis is effecting everyone, slowly or later it will come close to you. This is happening and it will take its toll one way or the other. Mentally, physically and financially. Infighting and bad vibes to one another will not take this crisis away or the fact that people are directly or indirectly deeply effected.

The American Dream had become a nightmare and this is just the tip of the iceberg. The emotional toll will be high , very high.
Remember, all you have is one another to lean on. Respect that fact and thereby respecting yourself !!

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